Hong Kong’s higher education system has earned a reputation for breeding innovation and competitiveness for the wealthy city. This is no longer true in recent days, as violence on campuses reached its climax. Radical protesters occupied some universities and turned them into the new frontline of their clashes with police officers.
Some western media reports depicted the police as the people’s enemy, accusing them of using excessive force to disperse “peaceful assemblies.” In these one-sided stories, riot police tried to break into the campus of the Chinese University of Hong Kong (CUHK) earlier last week, and were confronted with fierce resistance from protesters, starting a four-day standoff.
Rocky Tuan, CUHK president, made a rare call for peace via an open letter on Friday, reproaching the violence and life-threatening behavior committed during the protesters’ occupation.
Tuan also confirmed the deployment of the police was initially a response to reports that rioters seized a bridge with linkage to the CUHK campus and tossed hard objects onto the highway. Police promised to withdraw as long as protesters stopped their violent acts. This decent proposal that could have avoided escalation was rejected by protesters.
Fanatics took over another top school, the Hong Kong Polytechnic University (PolyU), over the weekend. They refused to surrender and attacked an armored police vehicle with catapulted petrol bombs. The violence shows no sign of stopping. Students fled the school as the situation was spinning out of control.
The chaos unfolding at Hong Kong universities is a miniature of what the entire society has gone through over the past five months. Radical protesters believe their political demands are superior to others’ legitimate rights, and hold Hong Kong’s stability and prosperity as hostage.
No political viewpoint gives a license to damage property, employ physical threats, or use violence against individuals. The purpose of university is spreading education, knowledge and reason. Universities shall not be used as a breeding ground for violence, nor a safe haven for lawbreakers.
It’s unlikely that the rioters could walk away without punishment after trampling on laws. The biased media need to reflect on their contorted reporting that describes law-breakers as heroes. Hong Kong needs more united voices to condemn violence, and build support for law enforcement’s efforts to bring back peace and order, which is the most pressing task for the city.